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PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Orabs win substate title

Submitted Photo The Sheldon boys' basketball team stands behind their Iowa Class 2A Substate 1 championship banner after defeating Western Christian Saturday in Orange City. Front Row (left to right): Quinn Groff, Peter Fonkert, Matt Dykstra, Chris Balster, Nathan Oostra, Dylan Ennema, Turner DeJong, Matt Buenger, Hunter McDonald. Back Row (left to right): Will DeKok, Tom Brown, James Gradert, Dallas Ennema, Collin Wolthuizen, Andy Cooper.

ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Four minutes.

It took four extra minutes for the Sheldon Orabs boys' basketball team to make its return to the state tournament for the first time since 1977 with a 64-57 overtime victory over the Western Christian Wolfpack in Saturday's Iowa Class 2A Substate 1 championship game at MOC-Floyd Valley High School.

"We were just playing defense," Orabs' senior guard Chris Balster said. "Defense wins championships and that's what we were trying to do. This (win) means everything to us. This has been our dream (to get to the state tournament) since like fifth grade. We just wanted to accomplish that dream."

Sheldon (22-3 overall), which will play Pella Christian (20-4) in the Class 2A quarterfinals on March 5 at 12:15 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, needed to repel Western Christian's late surge as the Wolfpack rallied from an eight-point deficit (44-36) with 3 minutes to play in regulation as Kyle Fopma buried a step-back 3 from the left wing with 1:04 remaining in the fourth to tie the game at 54.

The Orabs called two timeouts over the final minute of regulation to set up the final shot, but a last-second shot missed its mark and extended the game. The Wolfpack regained the lead (56-54) for the first time since late in the first quarter when Michael DenHerder made a runner in the lane 58 seconds into the extra period.

Balster (seven points) answered with a 13-foot fadeaway jumper with 1:43 left to tie it and then added two free throws 19 seconds later while being fouled on a defensive rebound to give Sheldon the lead for good. Dallas Ennema sealed the win for Sheldon by converting all six of his free throws in the final minute.

Nathan Oostra sparked the Orabs throughout the game with his defense, collecting three steals and blocking a shot. The senior forward also led Sheldon in scoring with 21 points on 8 of 12 from the field as Western Christian (21-3) focused on shutting down Ennema, who averages nearly 21 points per game.

"Defensively, (Oostra) is a great player and an outstanding young man," Sheldon head coach Claude Struve said.

"(Western Christian) really focused on (containing) Dallas (Ennema) and that left me and Chris Balster open to attack," Oostra said. "We got to the rim and finished. This is the best feeling in the world right now. It's been what, 36 years? It's amazing."

Balster assisted Oostra on a 3 from the right wing with 2:25 remaining in the first to give Sheldon its first lead of the game (9-8) before Oostra assisted Ennema, who converted a conventional 3-point play in the post, and Ennema assisted Balster on a left-wing 3 as time expired for a 15-10 lead after a quarter.

"(Oostra) is a great player," Balster said. "He's so athletic and he's so sneaky. He finishes at the rim and he's great when he attacks the rim."

Balster and Oostra each delivered six assists in the game for Sheldon.

James Gradert (seven points, nine rebounds, three blocks) highlighted Sheldon's second quarter by finishing an Oostra steal with a dunk to make it 19-11 at 5:40, but the Wolfpack cut the margin to three by intermission (23-20).

Ennema, who had three points in the first half, scored eight points in the third quarter to help the Orabs take a 37-31 lead into the fourth quarter. Ennema finished right at his season average with 20 points while adding six rebounds, three assists and a block.

Sheldon pushed the lead back to eight in the fourth quarter as Tom Brown (five points, four rebounds) assisted Gradert on a converted 3-point play on a long pass into the open court off an inbounds play and Oostra converted two free throws to make it 44-36 with 3 minutes to go.

However, a trio of Wolfpack 3's (Taylor Feenstra, Michael DenHerder and Fopma) in a 44-second span from 1:48 to 1:04 tied the game at 54, setting up the thrilling finish.

DenHerder's 3 was well-defended by Balster, who stuck to the 6-5 forward all night.

"We had a 5-11 kid guarding a 6-5 kid ( DenHerder) who's got a big heart and that was Chris Balster," Struve said. "He played really well."

DenHerder topped the Wolfpack with 14 points, while Fopma added 12. Western Christian had eight players score in the game.

Saturday's win marks the first time that Sheldon has defeated Western Christian in seven attempts in substate championships during Struve's 33-year coaching career.



SHELDON (22-3): Oostra 8-12 4-8 21, Balster 2-4 2-4, Da. Ennema 5-12 10-11 20, Dykstra 2-4 0-0 4, Dy. Ennema 0-1 0-0 0, Wolthuizen 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 2-2 1-2 5, Gradert 2-4 3-3 7. Totals: 21-40 20-28 64

WESTERN CHRISTIAN (21-3): VanMaanen 0 0-0 0, Fopma 4 2-4 12, Granstra 3 2-2 9, DenHerder 5 2-2 14, LeLoux 1 0-0 2, Heynen 1 0-0 2, Feenstra 1 4-6 7, Folkerts 1 1-2 3, VanLingen 4 0-2 8. Totals: 20 11-18 57.

Sheldon 15 8 14 17 10 -- 64

Western Christian 10 10 11 23 3 -- 57

3-Point Goals: Sheldon 2-7 (Oostra 1-1, Balster 1-1, Da. Ennema 0-4, Dy. Ennema 0-1); Western Christian 6 (Fopma 2, DenHerder 2, Granstra, Feenstra). Rebounds: Sheldon 28 (Granstra 9, Da. Ennema 6); Western Christian 17 (Feenstra 4). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): Sheldon 17 (Granstra); Western Christian 21 (None). Technical Fouls: None. Assists: Sheldon 16 (Oostra 6, Balster 6); Western Christian 6 (Fopma 3). Steals: Sheldon 7 (Oostra 3); Western Christian 4. Blocked Shots: Sheldon 5 (Gradert 3, Oostra, Da. Ennema); Western Christian 3. Turnovers: Sheldon 10; Western Christian 13.